Lisa Wade says: let’s have a “balanced” discussion on child mutilation!


There are few health repercussions, so you really should have a more “balanced” view of this. It’s their culture, you know.

Sociological Images, a blog I used to follow until now, recently published an article by Lisa Wade called ‘A Balanced Look at Female Genital “Mutilation.”‘ (yes, with the scare quotes). Some other blogs have published criticism of this entry (see here and here). As it turns out, Lisa Wade is a tireless critic of people who are against FGM.

But you know, fair enough, let’s first see what this “balanced” discussion should be about. As it turns out, Wade’s thesis consists of seven facts:

1. Using the word “mutilation” is counterproductive.
2. Media coverage usually focuses on one of the more rare types of genital cutting: infibulation.
3. Research has shown that women with cutting are sexually responsive.
4. Health complications of genital cutting “represent the exception rather than the rule.”
5. Girls are not generally cut in response to the influence of cruel patriarchs.
6. FGCs are not an “African practice.”
7. Western-led efforts to eliminate FGCs are largely ineffective and sometimes backfire.

I will not go through each in turn, since the other critics have already done that. But one important fact she omitted to discuss was why we should care about any of this. Some of these facts may be true (there are very good reasons to reject at least some of them), but they do not provide a “balanced” view of FGM. As a contrast, imagine that the article was instead an attempt to provide a “balanced” view of child rape, and the following facts were presented:

1. Using the word “rape” is counterproductive.
2. Media coverage usually focuses on one of the more rare types of parental sex: girls who are imprisoned and inseminated by their fathers.
3. Research has shown that women who had parental sex in childhood are sexually responsive.
4. Health complications of parental sex are rare.
5. Girls are not generally involved in parental sex in response to the influence of cruel patriarchs.
6. Parental sex is not a “male practice.”
7. Efforts to eliminate parental sex are ineffective and sometimes backfire.

I hope the analogy is obvious. Neither of these sets of facts are relevant to the debate because they are also ethical debates, not merely factual debates. Any discussion of human practices (no matter how mundane or repulsive, or both) must necessarily integrate moral or ethical considerations, lest we completely omit human rights and human well-being. This seems to be Wade’s goal; she wants to treat FGM as a purely academic concern in which no human beings are involved. Given the fact that we don’t treat children as human beings, she might be right on that.

One point on which she is absolutely right is that FGM is not an African practice: it has been practiced in the United States until very recently, and may reemerge once again. The debate around FGM will accordingly take more prominence. And there will be plenty of people like Lisa Wade there to promote woman-hatred in the name of facts. I repudiate her and her blog. Fuck Lisa Wade for being on the side of the oppressors of women.

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6 thoughts on “Lisa Wade says: let’s have a “balanced” discussion on child mutilation!

  1. bj December 14 2012 at 19:47 Reply

    It’s ok to *cause intense pain to your child* cuz culture!

    • Francois Tremblay December 15 2012 at 1:43 Reply

      Yes. There’s nothing wrong with it because culture. You got it, pretty much. This is a “balanced” discourse.

  2. bj December 15 2012 at 15:46 Reply

    That scene in the picture above, I have seen it before. It is very unsettling. It reminds me of something a friend of mine told me, about BDSM. My friend is a ‘top’ and his gf’s are ‘bottoms’. One of the games they would play is that he would ‘inspect’ their genitalia. Make sure its clean, that its up to his standards, whatever. The point of the inspection is to demonstrate to his slave that he is dominant, that she is an object to be used…

    Don’t you get the same feeling from the above photo? A bunch of pervy old men inspecting the vaginas of young, defenseless women?

  3. FedUp January 8 2013 at 15:15 Reply

    While I am not arguing against your sentiment, I just hope you are consistent and feel the same way about MALE genital mutilation as you do female genital mutilation. Both forms of child genital cutting (whether you refer to it as “circumcision” or “mutilation”) are fucking barbaric and should be stopped. I am enraged that so many American/Western liberals and their neo-conservative counterparts (pretend?) to be outraged by mutilation of the female genitalia half a world away but do not even consider the mutilation of male genitalia at home. So many boys are sexually mutilated in early infancy routinely for no good reason, HELL! For no stupid reason. Those girls in Africa suffer genital mutilation ostensibly because it is part of “the culture” and that is a stupid reason, but at least they get a reason. Meanwhile, many American Gentiles have their sons circumcised because… FUCK! Why the fuck not! And yet these hypocritical Amerikkkans have the audacity to teach those poor “backwards” African “savages” that they are wrong. (Pot calling the kettle black much?) I agree that the practice must be eradicated, but it must be eradicated on a global scale.

    • Francois Tremblay January 8 2013 at 23:18 Reply

      Yes. And stop making comparisons between major evils. There’s no point in it and you’re just pissing people off.

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